Researchers discover key mechanism that can trigger changes in blood vessels.
Drugs originally developed to treat people with Alzheimer’s disease could be repurposed to prevent damage caused to blood vessels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Leeds and University of Dundee have discovered a key mechanism that can trigger changes in the blood vessels, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease.
The findings of the DRWF-funded study were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that taking an experimental compound could possibly reverse damage caused to blood vessels of people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a range of conditions that can include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
The condition can lead to a stiffening of blood vessels and that puts them at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The condition develops when people begin to overproduce an enzyme called BACE1 which in turn creates a protein called beta amyloid.
In tests researchers used an experimental compound called M-3 to stop the actions of BACE1, and found it could not only halt disease developing in the blood vessels – but reverse it.
Dr Paul Meakin, University Academic Fellow at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, and study lead author, said: “The therapeutic effects of the experimental compound were marked, with the progression of disease in badly damaged blood vessels being reversed.
“Sometimes in science you look at the data you produce and there is the hint of something there but the effects that we observed were dramatic.
“And the most exciting thing is that there are drugs that can target the BACE1 enzyme.
“It opens up the possibility that scientists can develop a medicine that inhibits the actions of BACE1 – with the evidence suggesting that it may not only halt the progress of disease in the blood vessels but could reverse it.”
BACE1 is linked with the development of beta amyloid plaques found in the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s disease.
While pharmaceutical companies have begun to develop BACE1 inhibitors they have so far been ineffective in tackling Alzheimer’s disease.
Mike Ashford, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Dundee, who supervised the research, said: "These findings suggest the exciting possibility whereby existing drugs that have unfortunately shown no benefit in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease, may instead be used to treat vascular disease in this group of people."
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Blood vessel damage caused by diabetes accelerates and worsens heart and circulatory diseases. These findings identify a new damaging pathway already targeted by a drug in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“This drug now needs to be tested in people with [type 2] diabetes in the hope it has the ability to reduce the progress of heart and circulatory disease in the millions of people living with diabetes in the UK.”
Read the report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation
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